The largest muscle of the buttocks, known as gluteus maximus is distinctive in comparison with other primates and has evolved due to postural changes from being quadrupeds to bipeds.
In humans, the gluteus maximus is attached to the dorsal ilium (hip bone) and due to its superior attachment, has increased leverage. In a morphological study comparing baboon’s hind legs, the gluteus maximus was found to have a relatively larger weight in humans. To maintain an upright position required for bipedalism this single joint muscle allows an increased force production.
Role of Gluteus Maximus
This muscle is important in many day-to-day activities such as walking, running and lifting, and plays a significant part in pelvic stability. Gluteus maximus has many different functions such as providing sacroiliac joint (SIJ) stability, strength during lifting and control in gait.
SIJ stability is provided by compression, by a self-bracing mechanism and provides very little movement that contributes for its primary function of load transfer from the trunk to legs. It also contributes to gait, and its ineffective functioning can compromise the gait cycle in many aspects.
Combating the Gluteus Maximus
Alterations in functions and properties of gluteus maximus have been found in association with kinetic chain changes of the lower limb due to pain or injury.
For example, individual suffering from ankle sprain injury may show to have reduced activation levels of gluteus maximus, due to damage of the proprioceptive feedback loop via a lateral ankle sprain. It may alter postural control by changing muscle ring patterns in the lower limb muscles.
A strain or tear of the gluteus maximus is also possible mainly during athletic activities, like while playing dynamic sports that require running, jumping and quick accelerations. The strain, graded as minimal, moderate or severe, correspond roughly to the severity of symptoms and time frame for healing.
Healing of the Gluteus Maximus
Like any other muscle strain, a minimal strain will heal faster than a moderate or severe strain and it can typically be managed with a normal initial treatment programme like PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) or RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation ) protocol.
If the strain is moderate to severe, or if there is difficulty moving the hip joint, it may be a more serious injury and you should consult your doctor/sports physiotherapist. A severe tear may require surgery.